Stephanie Buckingham has a confession to make. Despite being the top girls singles player in the Mid-Columbia Conference this season, she prefers to play doubles.
But since Kennewick did not have another player of her caliber to pair up with, she continued her solo act, all the way to a fifth-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament.
“I like doubles more,” said Buckingham, who was named the Herald’s All-Area girls player of the year. “I play doubles in tournaments. Since Sierra (Troxel) is gone, I get assigned a doubles partner, which is fine. Doubles just comes naturally to me. It’s one of those things I’m more comfortable with.”
On the boys’ side, Richland’s Zach Fisher earned All-Area honors, going undefeated during the regular season in singles, then teaming up with Trent Prussing to win a district title and finish second at regionals en route to the 4A state tournament.
“It would have been interesting to see how singles would have turned out (in the postseason),” Fisher said. “I had a lot of success. Overall, it was a good season. I’m happy with it.”
Southridge’s Chuck Hamaker-Teals, whose Suns picked up their fourth consecutive girls Mid-Columbia Conference title, earned coach of the year honors.
Buckingham, the MCC girls player of the year, swept through league play during the regular season, then picked up the district and regional titles on her way to a fourth state tournament.
“I knew I would have a good season,” she said. “And how our team ended up, winning district and regional titles, it was a good year all the way around.”
Buckingham, who was eighth at state as a freshman and seventh the last two years, lost her first match at state this year, then won the next three, beating Lina Larson of Interlake 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the fifth-place match.
With Troxel graduating from Hanford last year, Buckingham said she could relax and play her game.
“The last three years I was undefeated except for my matches against her,” Buckingham said. “This season I thought I would be fine. I was more focused on winning, not worrying about what she was doing. I could relax. She was no longer in my head.”
Buckingham is headed to Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston to continue her playing career with the Warriors. She’s heard through the grape vine that longtime coach Kai Fong has his players on the run — literally.
“I heard there are practices where you don’t even bring your racquet,” Buckingham said. “He makes them run. I will be doing a lot of that this summer.”
The 17th-ranked Warriors earned an at-large berth to the NAIA National Championship in May.
Fisher, who had great success last year at state with Travis Zuroske, finishing third, had high hopes with Prussing.
“Trent is a great player,” Fisher said. “We didn’t have the best state tournament, but he helped me a lot. I’m a huge fan of high school tennis. I love being on a team.”
Among Fisher’s accomplishments this season was the Inland Empire title in Spokane, where he finished 5-0 and lost just eight games.
Fisher, who also was named the MCCboys player of the year, is bound for University of Montana in the fall. The Grizzlies won the Big Sky Conference title this year and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
“They have a great program,” Fisher said. “They are losing some guys (six) and it might be a rebuilding year. They play at a high level, and I hope to add something to the team.”
Montana coach Kris Nord is looking forward to Fisher joining the program.
“Zach came here and met the team last fall on an unofficial visit, and I had really good feedback from the kids on the team who hit with him,” Nord said on the school’s website. “So he should be another good fit for us chemistry-wise.”
Fisher will keep his game sharp this summer with tournaments and teaching lessons at Columbia Basin Racquet Club.
“I will be practicing a lot,” Fisher said. “I will have plenty of court time.”
MVP | Stephanie Buckingham, sr., Kennewick
MVP | Zach Fisher, sr., Richland
Coach | Chuck Hamaker-Teals, Southridge
Singles | Zoey Garcia, jr., Kennewick
Singles | Darko Stankovic, jr., Hanford
Singles | Paul Chapuis, sr., Chiawana
Doubles | Sofia Morrison, sr., Southridge
Doubles | Bailee Sanderson, sr., Southridge
Doubles | Shyler Sullivan, soph., Southridge
Doubles | Emily Koehler, jr., Southridge
Doubles | Trent Prussing, jr., Richland
Doubles | Chad McKenzie, sr., Kennewick
Doubles | Jared Bolt., jr., Kennewick
Singles | Eden Snider, fr., Pasco
Singles | An Wang, soph., Hanford
Singles | Javan Olin, sr., Chiawana
Singles | Connor Christensen, sr., Walla Walla
Doubles | Jaime Quaresma, sr., Walla Walla
Doubles | Maria Arceo, sr., Walla Walla
Doubles | Briana Wolfe, jr., Hermiston
Doubles | Chyeann Peterson, soph., Hermiston
Doubles | Nick Fuller, sr., Walla Walla
Doubles | Malcolm Gabbard, jr., Walla Walla
Doubles | Ben Welch, sr., Kamiakin
Doubles | Matt Inman, jr., Kamiakin